Replacing Community Pharmacists with envelopes and 1-800 Numbers Would Drive Up Human and Financial Costs of Health Care

May 28, 2009

(As submitted to Woman's Day)

To the Editor:

Mail-order medicine is far from a panacea for rising health care costs ("20 Smart Health Shortcuts," May 5, 2009).

It's been estimated that $177 billion is spent annually on hospital, physician and other treatments for inappropriate medication use. Swapping community pharmacists for envelopes and 1-800 numbers would almost certainly drive up the human and financial toll of adverse drug events.

Further, mail-order often winds up costing far more than medications dispensed by licensed pharmacists. The reason? Prescription drug plans are administered by pharmacy benefit managers, companies that charge plan sponsors (e.g. employers) enormous fees to run mail-order programs. Collectively, these costs dwarf a retail pharmacy's overhead and, ultimately, they are born by employers and patients in the form of higher insurance premiums.

Patients hoping to restrain drug costs should consult their community pharmacists, who see every day how families struggle to pay for essential medicines. They may be able to make recommendations to save patients money while ensuring they use their medications as safely and effectively as possible.

Bruce T. Roberts
Executive Vice President and CEO
National Community Pharmacists Association
Alexandria, VA

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